When you are traveling, free public WIFI access can be a lifesaver, especially if you are in a country where you do not have a cell phone or normal cellular data access. However, as great as it is not to have to pay for WIFI, you can also be opening yourself up to some of the many dangers of public internet hotspots.
Protecting yourself from identity theft and your personal information from the hacker drinking coffee three tables down from you is only one of the many benefits of using a VPN while traveling. Accessing websites that are blocked or unavailable, avoiding getting your bank account frozen, and finding cheaper flights, are also perks of using a VPN.
What is a VPN and How Does it Work?
Before we talk about why you need to be using a VPN while traveling, we need to talk about what a VPN actually is. VPN stands for virtual private network. VPNs are an app or software that you can download onto your computer, phone, or tablet that allows you to protect your identity and personal information by using encryption.
When a VPN is turned on, it will encrypt your internet activities known as internet traffic, allowing you to disguise your location, IP address, and personal online identity. Disguising your IP address is an important part of keeping your identity safe because the IP address or internet protocol address is the specific identification number assigned to your computer so the internet can differentiate between different devices.
By disguising or changing your IP address, you can “trick” the internet into thinking you are in a different city or country, which is how you can benefit from extra access, more security, and less hassle from your bank while traveling.
Free Vs. Paid VPNs
As a general rule, when it comes to anything, you get what you pay for. Free VPNs are great and tend to offer you basic levels of encryption which can give you some security and offer you access to most things you need.
However, they can be unreliable at times and inaccessible in some countries. If you will use a free VPN, it is best to do some research and read some reviews before committing.
Paid VPNs often offer access to more gateways, which are essentially the locations you can set your device as being located in. They also tend to have more levels of security for extra protection.
However, if you are only planning on using a VPN for a few days each year, it may be more worth your time and money to find a good free VPN instead of investing in a paid VPN. Do your research and decide what best suits your travel and security needs.
Reasons Why You Need to Be Using a VPN While Traveling
Extra Security Online
Even if you are only planning to use public internet access for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, your computer, phone, and tablet have already accessed your more sensitive information like your bank account or credit card numbers from online shopping. This means that you are still at risk of being a victim of identity theft.
Protecting your personal information stored on your devices and in your devices’ internet history is a big part of what VPNs do. You may also benefit from protection against potential hacks to your social media accounts as well.
The bottom line is that if you can use a free VPN to gain safe access to the internet and place an additional layer of security between your personal information and someone who is trying to steal it, why wouldn’t you?
All it takes is a few minutes to download a good VPN and time to get into the habit of turning on the VPN when you are using public internet access. If you want additional layers of security, you can check out one of the various paid VPNs on the market to beef up your internet security even more.
Access to Blocked and Unavailable Websites
If you are used to open internet access in countries like the US, Canada, and the UK, it may come as a surprise to you that censorship of the internet is real in many countries, and these countries block certain websites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It can be frustrating for many travelers if they cannot access these must-have websites to post updates and search for important things.
Other things you may not be able to access when traveling to different countries are websites like Netflix and Hulu and apps like Pandora and Spotify. It is also possible that you can still have access, but your access is limited. For example, some shows on Netflix may be banned, so you cannot stream them. The same is true for music as well.
This is also not necessarily because the country you are traveling to has blocked the website or app. Still, some companies like smaller banks do not offer services internationally, and therefore, they do not allow access to their websites in countries where it is not generally needed.
Bank Account Freezing Prevention
If your bank account has ever been flagged and frozen for unauthorized access from a location you are not normally trying to access it from, you understand the hassle of trying to contact the bank and get it unfrozen.
If you use a VPN, you can set your location to your home country and even city so that your bank does not flag your account as having a suspicious activity or possible fraud. A VPN can save you a huge headache when accessing your bank account from other locations. Just do not forget to set your gateway to somewhere close to home.
Cheaper Flight Deals
Fun fact for anyone who travels outside of the country from time to time, you can get better deals on flights, hotels, and other activities you may do while traveling if you book your tickets from another country. You can also try a few different countries for better deals.
There are many VPNs available on the market, and there are both free and paid options. Before you leave, make sure to check and see if your VPN of choice is accessible in the country you are traveling to because some countries like China and Russia do block some VPN access.
It is also a good idea to go ahead and download the VPN before you leave in case you cannot access the download in the country you are traveling to.
Whether you are traveling to other countries or traveling to the next town over, protect yourself and reap the benefits of using a VPN while traveling. You will not regret the extra layer of privacy and security it has to offer.